WATERBURY, Conn. –
Honor is one of the core values of the Army, and it is the foundation of what makes up the commitment of the funeral honors team in the Connecticut National Guard.
“After being on the team for a while,” says Army Spc. Malik Goethe, member of the Connecticut Honor Guard, “I really found the honor in this job and just the respect for the family and the deceased.”
Soldiers conducting the honors go through hours of training. “Level one training is a 40-hour course,” says Sgt. 1st Class Anthony Ricco, Operations NCO for the Connecticut Honor Guard, “Instructors go onto another 80-hour train the trainer course.”
“There’s a lot more honor behind doing everything that we do,” says Sgt. Alex Rivera, member of the Connecticut Honor Guard, “Behind the ceremonies, behind the practices, behind the preparation of the uniform.”
"We do a lot of training,” Goethe says, “We train multiple times a week, if we have down time we’re conducting training; folding flags, conducting funerals, and just practicing all the time.”
"Everyday there’s training,” says Rivera, “Folding the flag, seeing where we’re going to stand, hand placements, eye contact, small subtle movements that we can communicate with each other during the ceremony others might not notice.”
Funeral honors consist of firing parties, the playing of taps, the folding of the flag, and presentation of the flag to the family.
Last year the team conducted 1,531 funerals, and assisted with 2,885 firing parties. The firing parties consists of the volunteers with veterans organizations like the American Legion and Marine Corps League. In Connecticut, all veterans receive a firing party.
“We really do this for the family,” says Goethe, “We don’t wear name tapes specifically because it’s not for us; it’s for the family.”
“I say it’s something to be proud of,” says Rivera, “It’s not everybody that gets to do something so beautiful for other people. When you finally get to do the service, when you hand the flag over to the person and you look in their eyes and you tell them how much it is appreciated that their loved one served, it really does get to your heart.”